“S…T…R…E…S…S…E…D” You scream. We’ve all been there at some point or another, especially through our academic careers. We’ve all said “I’m too stressed” or “I’m so overwhelmed” or simply had the urge to scream into the void! But what really is stress and how should we handle it?
The first time in my life I remember being stressed was Primary Seven. I was eleven years old and faced the pressure cooker of an exam to determine where I received my Secondary Education. Reflecting I made it a way bigger deal than necessary – an essay “All About Me” and a few Maths problems that even the least numerical person on the planet could solve were not worth getting so uptight about, but I still did. It was the first major assessment I’d ever faced and I drowned. I attended a fairly academic school and was in a year group of 200 other young people, all very clever, all destined to be doctors, dentists, vets or lawyers. The pressure of going into such an environment already had my heart racing at one million miles an hour and I questioned if I was “clever” enough from day one.
From then on, it only got worse. I was so stressed out that I lacked confidence in myself and my abilities. I was constantly too busy comparing myself to other people and that meant I fell behind academically. As a result, I then thought I was “unintelligent” and I wanted to give in completely. When exam results day came around, my heart sank. My results were by no means terrible, but in my head and in that environment, they were atrocious. I spent days in bed after that. I felt like my world had been turned negatively upside down, when in reality yes it had been, but for the better. My exam stress spread into every aspect of my life; stressed about being a young carer, stressed about work, stressed about friendships…even stressed about what colour of dress I wanted to wear because I’d just forgotten what CALM meant. I took every word to heart, always assuming the worst from everyone. I pushed my friends away because I didn’t want them to see the shaking shell I had become. I dropped out of all the hobbies I loved because anything more than compulsory reduced me to tears. Just a whole bundle of stress.
What is it though? What does this stress feel like? For me, it’s a tight feeling my chest, a pounding headache and a sick feeling in my throat. For others, it’s the crippling inability to even get out of bed in the morning. It can be crying over the stress (or crying over a packet of pasta that burst at your feet, oops!). Crying for no reason and that’s okay as well. Stress is different for everyone and can occur for hundreds of reasons. Often people aren’t upset about the event they explode over but rather an accumulation of different events in their lives.
Since I’m at University and balancing my social life and career alongside it, I’ve had to find ways to deal with stress and although it’s not a promise that you’ll never be stressed again, it definitely helps to minimize that Pasta Crisis moment.
Most importantly, it’s not about stopping being stressed – trust me, no matter what you do in life you’ll always be stressed and you’ll always have moments where you feel overwhelmed. TALK, TALK, TALK. It helps. It stops the endless list of worries from building up in your head and sometimes, people can offer a solution you haven’t even considered.
Never let stress get the better of you. If stress is getting in the way of your daily life, something is wrong and something needs to change. If you don’t know how or who to talk to, that’s okay. Things will get better, as cliché as that sounds. Your situation will change, that assignment will be over, another job you love will come by soon. Don’t let it get in the way of your health and happiness, nothing is worth that after all.